801 17th Street in Washington, D.C.
by William Lebovich
Developer Louis Dreyfus Property Group, now Property Group Partners (PGP), had high goals for its 801 17th Street building, strategically located a block from the White House and Lafayette Park.
Designed by Kevin Roche, the building at 801 17th Street was the first in Washington, D.C. certified as LEED Platinum for Core and Shell, and in May, 2009, one of only 63 buildings worldwide with that status, among 731 total LEED Platinum certified projects, and 11,961 LEED certified projects of all types and levels.
All three of Roche's glass buildings in Washington are startling, as he has participated in challenging the conservative, corporate tastes of Washington. His buildings are not about winning popularity by applying classical motifs or stone spandrels and glass architectural themes popular in NYC between 1920 and 1980.
Given the architecturally sedate surroundings 801 17th Street and the new glass building by Gensler under construction across the street from 801, Mr. Roche's all glass building with its projecting and receding bays of stepped and inverted corbeling and pyramids is startling.
When asked if he had trouble selling his client on such an unusual facade design, Roche replied no, "lawyers like corner offices," — and lawyers/lobbyists must be the largest tenant group in Washington.
PGP had bought a bland 1960's office building occupying the northeast corner of H and 17 Streets, with the major facade along 17th St. Once it decided to demolish the existing building, PGP interviewed a prominent local architect and two national firms. This is the third project Kevin Roche has done for PGP in Washington, DC.
According to PGP's Cahill, 801 17th Street is one of only six private buildings with a view of the White House. The others are closer to Lafayette Park and the White House, either along 15th Street, a block east of the White House or along the north side of H Street facing Lafayette Park.
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